COLLEGE STATION, TX — “I was really worried last year when I planned to go to Bangladesh, because all of a sudden when my younger sister passed away, I needed to go back," said Kamrul Hasan, a Texas A&M graduate student living in College Station. "But then, all the flights got canceled, and even then there was a lot of uncertainty if I could come back here because the rules changed due to the pandemic."
Whether it’s booking a flight or renewing a passport or student visa, Texas A&M’s international students, like Hasan, have struggled both to leave the United States and to stay in it.
“One of my friends, his wife came here with a spouse visa," Hasan recalled. "She got admitted here at A&M and needed to change her visa status for that. She needed to go to the U.S. embassy in my country, but due to the pandemic, she decided not to go back. So the nearest opportunity was to go to Mexico, another country, and use the embassy there. So, they are going to Mexico to change her visa status.”
The university's International Student Services office has been working to help these students obtain visas, and to renew passports in a time where wait periods last as long as three months.
“Many of the U.S. embassies are still operating under emergency protocol because of COVID-19," explained Bill Taylor, director of Texas A&M International Student Services. "So the number of visas being issued over the past few months has been much lower than it has been in the past.”
Taylor said Texas A&M hosts as many as 6,000 international students each semester, under normal circumstances. Now, a number of those students may not be able to attend in-person classes in Aggieland.
And those currently residing in Bryan/College Station whose passports or visas aren’t renewed may face a number of obstacles, such as lack of access to a Texas driver’s license.
“It does create anxiety for the students," said Taylor. "But it’s one of those things where as long as they're working with us on getting their paperwork renewed and keeping the government informed, the government works with them as much as they can.”
And to combat those anxieties?
“What I have found is the Texas A&M counseling center, they have really been helpful going through the pandemic and these frustrating situations," Kamrul Hasan commented.